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3 Reasons Why “How to” Doesn’t Work

How to Does Not Work

3 Reasons Why “How to” Does Not Work

Have you ever struggled with living the Christian life? Has it ever felt impossible to you?

You want to love God and people, but you find yourself failing.

You just had your quiet time. And now just a short time later, you regret the words you just spoke to your child, your spouse or a friend. Or you regret the tone and the attitude behind the words. Been there, done that!

As you go deeper into the Christian life, you realize sin is not just about outward behavior. Your heart attitudes, thought life and motives even for doing right can also be sinful.

For years I struggled with this question: How do I live the Christian life? What must I do? How can I experience freedom?

 I was asking the wrong question. “How?” is asking for a “how to.” A method to follow.

I wanted something I could do to get victory over sin.

I discovered that the answer is not in coming up with a plan, a method or strategy to follow. At the core of the Christian life there is no “how to.”

Why? Look at the following 3 reasons:

1. The Christian life is not a sin management program.

No program or plan will help us overcome sin.

Dallas Willard in his book, The Divine Conspiracy, used the term “sin management” to describe a Christian lifestyle with sin as the focus. This is a miserable and frustrating way to live. Have you lived with a focus on the sin in your life?

A constant struggle with sin is not the life that Jesus died to give you.

What a miserable way of living! Focusing on sin leads to more sin. Trying to rid your heart of idols will lead to replacing the old idols with new. Struggling with an addiction? Get rid of one and another addiction will take its place.

So you can let the burden of sin roll off your shoulders. Relax! There is a greater purpose to your life! Victory over sin is a reality. (Keep reading!)

OK, then should we focus on the positive? Should I come up with a plan to become the person that God created me to be? Wouldn’t a strategy for becoming a better Christian help us here? No, this will fail also. Why?

2. The Christian life is not a self-improvement program.

None of these work:

  • Following a method, a formula, steps or any do-it-yourself plan
  • Striving in your strength to live by biblical principles
  • Using spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study to live up to your standard of behavior
  • Trying and struggling and failing and trying again
  • Focusing on yourself and trying to fix yourself
  • Rededicating yourself to act like Jesus would

 All of the above are an emphasis on what I do. I want to be in control of the process. I want a “how to” list to follow. If that’s what I’m looking for, I’m still depending on self to live the Christian life. If we are operating out of the flesh, we cannot please God (Romans 8:8). We will constantly fail here, too. 

We can be doing good things and still be powered by our good “religious” flesh. The choice in the Christian life is not between good and evil. Moral living is not the point of the gospel.  

Pastor Timothy Keller in a message about “The Prodigal Son,” called the story, “The Two Sons.” One chose the good and the other the bad. He said both sons needed to repent—one for the evil he did and the other for the good he did for the wrong reasons. The elder son obeyed the Father and worked hard for him, but his heart was far from the Father, too. He did not receive his father’s love and then obey and serve from a heart of love.

So relax, my friend. The Christian life is not a focus on how to overcome sin or how to become a better Christian. Even how to become more like Christ, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do), could lead you down the path to self-improvement. Don’t go there. There is a better way!

By asking “How?” I’m asking for a plan or steps to follow.

Paul asked the right question: “Who will deliver me?” (See Romans 7:24). Paul discovered that living the Christian life was impossible for him. Only Jesus living in Him could live the life.

The third reason why the Christian life is not a “how to”:

3. The Christian life is Christ living His life in and through you. 

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV)

My friend, this is the life Jesus died to give you—His very own life in you.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, ESV).

“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4, ESV).

For years I studied the Bible, read books about Christian living and admired the Christians who understood and experienced the truths that I was seeking to understand. I tried so hard to figure out this life of union with Christ.

My search was complicated because woundedness was one my challenges or so I believed. Wasn’t trusting God or anyone for that matter more difficult for me? That may be so, but all of my life was part of the process of learning to trust and surrender my life to God. I had to “own” all of the challenges of my life.

As I studied and taught grace and all that we have received in Jesus, the more I began to understand and experience the truth. Jesus is my life. He lives in me. I am still learning and growing in these truths. I long to experience more of the life of Christ.

Are you struggling with sin or yourself? With pain or grief? Or struggling to believe and trust?

Jesus says, “Come to Me. I will give you rest.

I am the end of your struggle for righteousness. I became sin for you. You are now righteousness in Me.

Do you need love for others? Come to Me. I will lavish my love and grace on you. You will be filled with My love. Love by that overflow.

Depend on My resources–My love, power and wisdom–for all you need to live this life.

By My death and resurrection, you have everything you need. You have the Holy Spirit, My Spirit, living in you to comfort and encourage you.

Believe the truth and you will be free. When I set you free, you are really free.”

(See Matthew 11:28-20, Romans 10:3-13, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 3:14-21, 2 Peter 1:3-4 and John 8:32-36).

What resources are you relying upon to live this life? Yours or His?

Are you struggling or resting in Him?

Let me know how I can pray for you. Pray for me, too. Let’s keep our focus on Jesus, adore and worship Him.

Photo credit: Geralt via Pixabay

The Life Jesus Died to Give You

The work is finished.-2

The Life Jesus Died to Give You

Ever wonder why your life is not working out how you thought it would? Are you struggling and wondering where the abundant life is that Jesus promised to give you?

Do you have needs that aren’t being met? Financial or physical needs? Unhappy marriage? Maybe you’re single and struggle with loneliness. Or you want to have children but can’t. Do you need physical healing or emotional healing?

Where is the abundant life, the life of joy, peace and love? You may have wondered about this like I have. I had a plan for my life. I believed this was also God’s plan for my life.

Have you heard the following expression? “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

Our plans are what we believe will be the path to a life of significance, meaning, purpose and fulfillment. What we envision for our lives may be God’s plan or maybe not.

Our plans might also be a temporary part of God’s plan like my missionary career of 17 years. I thought I would be serving in Japan for the rest of my working life. God had other plans. Losing that missionary role and identity was very difficult for me. Now I see how God’s plan was the best. Amazing, isn’t it?! Father does know best!

Today I want to get you thinking about this topic:

What is the life Jesus died to give you?

Jesus said He came to give you life, abundant life (John 10:10). What does that mean? What is this life? The very next verse says that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11).  He laid down His life so we could have life. What is this life?

Before we answer that question, I have a gold nugget of truth for you. I dug this gem out of the ground of painful life experiences that didn’t make sense at the time. (Not that they make total sense even now!)

Here it is:

The life experiences that wounded our hearts set us on the path to true Life. The losses, disappointments and sorrow are the strong hands that guide us to abundant life.

When we experience the abundant life, we look back over those tough times. We are grateful for those “grace gifts” of pain that opened our hearts to seek Life and not settle for anything less.

After years and years of struggling with those “grace gifts,” I can honestly say that I am grateful that my Lord used them to bring me to Life.

The abundant life is for now, not life after we get to heaven. Oh, the joy and love that can be ours in the present!

The life Jesus died to give you is far greater than any other life you could plan for yourself.

I invite you to think about 2 things.

  1. What are the “grace gifts” in your life that the Lord is using to lead you to the abundant life that He promised to give you?

The Lord used shattered dreams to lead me to Life.

  1. What is this abundant life? 

Listen to Jesus’ prayer to His Father in John 17:3:

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

The abundant life is knowing God the Father and Jesus the Son through the Holy Spirit. The life Jesus died to give you is an intimate love relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Meditate on these verses that tell us what Life is:

Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21, ESV)


“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4, ESV).


“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV).

Come alive in the Lord who gave Himself for you! He is your Life! May you be transformed as your mind is renewed by the truth of your identity in Christ.